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UT Law wins regional championship at ABA’s National Appellate Advocacy Competition

UT law students, competing among thirty-two teams in the American Bar Association’s annual National Appellate Advocacy Competition, won a regional championship, paving the way to vie for a national title in Chicago in April.  The ABA’s moot court competition is the biggest in the nation, involving nearly two hundred teams from law schools across the nation.  The Law School’s team will be one of twenty-four teams advancing.

The UT Law National Appellate Advocacy team, comprised of Brittany Artimez, ’13, Neil Gehlawat, ’12, and principal brief writer Nicole Haddad LeFave, ’12, prevailed in five consecutive rounds, with both Artimez and Gehlawat receiving recognition as top advocates.   A second team, including Daniel Collins, ’12, Lauren Ross, ’13, and Karson Thompson, ’12, also advanced to the championship round, losing for the first time only in the finals.

This regional competition was held in the federal courthouse in Seattle, Washington, from February 23–25.  The competition involved a sophisticated, two-issue, statutory construction problem:  whether a provision in the Medicaid Act permits coverage for intensive autism therapy and whether a private insurer’s decision to cap coverage for that treatment at age 11 offends the Wellstone Act, enacted to require parity between coverage for mental and physical healthcare benefits. 

Gretchen Sween, ’03, coaches the team.  She and teammate Connie Pfeiffer, ’04, were national finalists in this same competition as law students.  Sween currently teaches legal writing and appellate advocacy at the Law School.  She has coached UT Law teams for the ABA competition for the past four years, fielding a regional championship team each of those four years.  “Because of the tremendous talent and work ethic of this year’s team,” Sween said, “I have high hopes that we are again a legitimate contender for that elusive national championship.  The students participating in this prestigious competition have put in considerable hours preparing since early November 2011.  The students managed this demanding extracurricular commitment while juggling full course loads, journal obligations, and jobs as teaching assistants.  I suspect the law school is exceedingly proud of their commitment to excellence in advocacy.” 

The full team consists of Artimez, Gehlawat, LeFave, Collins, Ross, Thompson, and alternate Jillian Trezza, ’13.

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